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Indoctrinate Your Kids? Yes!

That’s right. Indoctrinate your kids. Especially as it concerns the faith. While the word indoctrination has negative connotations today, one definition is as follows:

1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
2. to teach or inculcate.
3. to imbue with learning.

Does this not describe to a great degree the parent’s role in the discipleship process of their children, especially when the kids are young? Surely we want to “instruct [our sons and daughters] in [Christian] doctrine, principle, and ideology.” Is it partisan or biased? Absolutely! The knowledge we want inculcated into our kids is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings which flow from it. In short, we want our children to deeply know what God has revealed – to flee from that which he deems sin, and run toward that which he loves. One of the ways that best happens is via indoctrination. While it’s popular to criticize people of faith for indoctrinating their kids, the truth is, every child is in the process of being indoctrinated. At every turn in a young person’s life, someone or something is trying to place their beliefs into that child. Schools, churches, and governments do it. Parents, teachers, and coaches do it. You can be sure songs, movies, and television do it as well.

Even parents holding a negative view of indoctrination indoctrinate. Suppose a father and mother who pride themselves as intellectual progressives that disdain indoctrination in any form confidently proclaim they’ve withheld themselves from pushing their personal belief systems upon their kids. They chose to instruct their children to discover what’s true for themselves. However, they fail to see this also is indoctrination. They are attempting to deposit into their children the “ideology” or “principle” that truth is relative. Additionally, these parents may also lead their kids to conclude that what dad and mom believe isn’t so important that it’s worth passing down. Regardless how those parents view their actions, it is indoctrination nonetheless.

Therefore, the real question is not who is being indoctrinated but who is doing the indoctrination?

I witnessed indoctrination in action when my wife and I were invited to a friend’s baby shower. I walked into the room where guests brought their baby gifts only to see it full of Texas A&M stuff. It was like College Station has exploded all over the place. I noticed an Aggie doll wearing shirt which said, “Welcome to the world Lil’ Aggie.” I saw Aggie baby booties, Aggie hats, a CD with Aggie lullabies (for real y’all), and even a DVD entitled Baby Aggie. The cover had a baby clad in Aggie fare mouthing the words, “Gig’ em!” What struck me was the DVD’s subtitle: Raising Tomorrow’s Texas A&M Fan Today.

After my wife resuscitated me (I’m a Baylor Bear, she’s a Texas Longhorn), I could only come to one conclusion: this is indoctrination. Make no mistake, those friends and family wanted to place their beliefs about their college in that child. I would assume most Aggies who read this would say, “But of course!” (with a tear in their eye and the Aggie War Hymn in their heart) Why? Because they believe a love for Texas A&M should be “imbued” or “inculcated” into their children. Thus, it only makes common sense to strategically place the “truths of A&M” into kids when they’re young. Welcome to indoctrination.

As I said, the question isn’t who is being indoctrinated, but who is doing the indoctrination?

It’s a big reason why the Bible highlights the father and mother as the chief agents in the discipleship process of their children.  And why I call on parents who are followers of Jesus to use their home as place where they “indoctrinate” their sons and daughters in the truths of the gospel. Don’t just indoctrinate them in your favorite school, sport, or show. Pour the truths of the gospel into them! Read the Bible with them. Tell them about Jesus. Pray with them.

Why? Because you want to raise tomorrow’s passionate follower of Jesus today!


Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

4 thoughts on “Indoctrinate Your Kids? Yes!”

  1. Thank you for this. I recently stumbled across an old article you did back in 2009 and tracked you down to here. I am currently a Children’s Pastor and couldn’t agree with you more. I hope to see more of this in your new book, which I would love to hear more on and be a sounding board for you (Although I am sure you have plenty of them).
    I am currently re-structuring the children’s ministry that I inherited, and both the topic of your article (2009) and your new book topic are the primary purpose of the ministry going forward. Thanks for your heart and ministry.

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